01/31/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Some 40,000 in Lahore streets to defend blasphemy law, shouting slogans against the Pope

by Jibran Khan
Benedict XVI is slammed for joining western propaganda against the Islamic state. Demonstrators pledge to sacrifice their lives for Muhammad. The new governor of Punjab is told to express solidarity with Salman Taseer’s murderer. Two attacks in the north-west leave 5 dead and 19 wounded.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – At least 40,000 people yesterday took to the streets of Lahore to protest against possible changes to the blasphemy law. The demonstration in Punjab’s capital city was called by Jamat-e-Islami, the main Islamist opposition party, which was joined by other seven parties, as well as the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and the Jamat-ud-dawa. At the same time, extremists continue their attacks throughout the country against sensitive sites. Five people were killed and 19 wounded in two suicide attacks today in the country’s north-west.

Thousands of people gathered at Mall Road, Lahore, to celebrate Tehreek Namoos-e-Risalat, the holiness of the Prophet Muhammad, and express their opposition to possible changes to the ‘black law’.

Shouting “we shall sacrifice our loves for the prophet”, they told the government to reject Western influence, slamming Benedict XVI for “joining Western propaganda against the Islamic state”.

In addressing the crowd, protesters threatened a “long march” on Islamabad if changes are brought to the law, something that government has said it would not do.

If changes are made to the law, “neither parliament, nor assemblies” will no longer exist, said Syed Munawar Hussain, of Jamat-e-Islami.

Speaking to the protesters, Fazlur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, JUI-F, told the new Punjab governor to visit Mumtaz Qadri, the jailed murderer of Salman Taseer, the Punjab governor who was killed for defending a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, and for demanding changes to the ‘black law’. For the fundamentalist leader, the new governor should make the visit as a token of solidarity to all Muslims in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the wave of violence continues. Five people, including four police officers, died in two separate attacks in Peshawar, in the country’s North-West Frontier Province. Another 19 were wounded in the blasts, including a number of civilians.

In the first incident, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in proximity to a patrol.

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